Recently published books

Julian Walker Amazon page 


The Roar of the Crowd


This major new anthology of sports writing captures the drama, excitement and intrigue of athletic achievement and celebrates the innate urge to compete, to fight, and to test the human body. Drawing together fiction and non-fiction from across the centuries, The Roar of the Crowd features some of the finest journalism of the 20th century alongside tales of triumph from Ancient Greek myth and Anglo-Saxon epic. The writers included within these pages cover the full breadth of the sporting experience: the nervous preparation, the ecstatic wins and the crushing losses, as well as moments of reflection on competition and life. From angling to horse racing, cricket to football, boxing to running, this wide-ranging collection features the most gripping, entertaining, and even philosophical, accounts from the world of sport and athletics.

The Roar of the Crowd 



A curious, sometimes uncomfortable history of the human need to look beautiful; revealing dozens of the (occasionally desperate) ways in which people have tried to make themselves more attractive. A story of ingenuity and imagination, but also of self-delusion, trickery and exploitation.

Among the bizarre home remedies and grotesque commercial innovations featured are a facewash based on minced and boiled pigeon; a recipe for horseradish stirred into sour milk to lighten a tan; an Anglo-Saxon prescription for cosmetic surgery; and ways to prevent mice from eating your wig.

The Finishing Touch, Cosmetics through the Ages, 2014, the British Library

The Finishing Touch



A compilation of medical recipes from Anglo-Saxon times until the nineteenth century, with commentary discussing the extent to which they were feasible, bizarre or downright dangerous. To what extent was pre-modern medicine hidebound by baseless theory, charms and old wives' tales, or based on empirical use of herbs and mineral compounds with a reasonable hope of success? Illustrated and designed to please the eye, however much the content may turn the stomach.


How to Cure the Plague 


Trench Talk (with Peter Doyle)

The First World War largely directed the course of the twentieth century. Fought on three continents, the war saw 14 million killed and 34 million wounded, countless millions of people displaced and the ends and beginnings of several states. Its impact shaped the world we live in today, and the language of the trenches, the common speech of the participants, continues to live in the modern consciousness.

   One of the enduring myths of the First World War is that the experience of the trenches was not talked about. Yet dozens of words entered or became familiar in the English language as a direct result of the soldiers' experiences. This book looks at how the first-hand and second-hand experience of the First World War changed the English language, adding words that were both in slang and standard military use, and modifying the usage and connotations of existing words and phrases. Illustrated with material from the authors' collections and photographs of the objects of the war, the book looks at how the words emerged into everyday language.


Trench Talk 


A dumb-bell was originally exactly a dumb bell, an exercise apparatus dating from the early eighteenth century with a mechanism for pulling a vertical rope with a weight attached, but no bell.  It was also used to train bell-ringers.  During the course of the century the name became applied to other kinds of weight-training equipment.  In 1902 the Model Course of Physical Training published by the Board of Education pointed out that 'the value of dumb-bells is not in their weight but in their having to be gripped.  Disused carbines are entirely unsuitable for use in Elementary Schools.'  'Dumb' and 'bell' were both Old English words, deriving from Germanic forms.




Team Talk 


The 1867 Chambers Etymological Dictionary proposes that the 'strawberry' is so called because it 'strews' or 'spreads' along the ground, echoing the implication of Ælfric's 11th century spelling, streabarige.  The word is sub- stantially different both from the Latin fragaria and forms in other Germanic languages.   The Old English streaw- berige may come from the idea that the fruit may be found under mown grass (Webster, 1828), or from the hairlike strands covering the fruit (Weekley, 1912), or because it strays (Davidson, 2006); most likely is that the sense of the earliest form was lost, and the first half of the word was replaced by the similar sounding 'straw', with the justification that to prevent its rotting the fruit is supported on straw.



 Discovering Words in the Kitchen


 'To whinge' is a surprisingly old word, appearing as hwinsunge in the mid-twelfth century to describe 'the whining noise made by dogs'.  This developed from the Old English hwinanIt is possible that these are all at least partially copying the sounds of a horse or an arrow, and that they overlap.  'Whinge', which became the settled spelling in the seventeenth century, developed into 'winge' in the twentieth century, particularly in the phrase 'wingeing poms'., meaning 'to make the noise of an arrow flying', itself coming from the Old Norse hvina.  A variety of interesting spellings were used in the following centuries, including quhyngeand and quhingeing.  Partridge links to these the word 'whinny', but relates this also to hinnire, the Latin word for 'to neigh'. 


Discovering Words 



Words and Forgetting, 2007, (ed) King's Lynn Arts Centre

An essay on the restriction on the commercial use of specified words as part of the London Olympic Association Right - in The Art of Dissent, Marshgate Press 2012